Two weeks in a row, I get to provide you with thoughts and observations on a holiday! Today, I reflect on the series that was, the youngest broadcast partner in my career, and a team Christmas party that we’ll never forget.
- It’s one thing to go home for the Christmas break and come back refreshed and rejuvenated, but it’s another thing to actually “come back” from break, in a mental sense. The Rush did, plain and simple. They played a great series, got two huge wins, and carry momentum into 2020.
- Regarding the series, Coach Tetrault was happy his team ended the losing streak on Friday with the 4-3 win over the Thunder, but he was rightfully disappointed in the final period of the game. The Thunder came back, and nearly tied things late after the Rush roared out to a 4-0 lead. He wanted his team to play a complete 60 minutes, and they did just that the next night, winning 2-0 behind Tyler Parks and his 26-save shutout. It was a complete effort from start to finish, with no signs of the Rush “pulling off the gas pedal”, if you will. It was a job well done all around.
- Tyler Parks is playing the best hockey of his life. He was stalwart in net through both games this last weekend, and his second shutout of the season gave him the first 10-win season of his career at the ECHL level. He’s significantly more poised in net than last season, and it shows in how he handles high-intensity offensive barrages.
- Stephane Legault is currently on a five-game point streak dating back to December 14th with 2 goals and 3 assists in that timespan. Stephane’s x-factor is his hockey sense, and it seems to be growing exponentially. It’s been great to watch him play this month.
- BOLD PREDICTION: by the end of January, Eric Israel will have his first goal as a professional. He has been working too hard to not be rewarded with it. He had two instances in which he could’ve had it last weekend. He was hooked vaudevillian style in front of the net on Friday, and the puck sailed wide of the net while he crashed into it. After the non-call and near miss, Israel had another close call on Saturday. He fired a shot down “Broadway” that hit the goalie and rolled behind him, but stopped dead on the goal line. It’s only a matter of time before we see that 0 in Eric’s goal column change to a 1.
- Matteo Gennaro and Darian Romanko were clutch additions to the lineup over the weekend. Both players are true centermen, which the Rush were desperately needing. Puck possession is 90% of the game, and when you’re winning draws you’re not chasing the game. They made an immediate impact up the middle for the Rush, and will continue to do so as long as they’re in the lineup.
- With those two coming to the lineup, let’s visit the opposite side of the coin. Keeghan Howdeshell and Dane Birks were both called up to the Tucson Roadrunners earlier today. Keeghan has been on fire recently, with 10 points in his last 10 games. He’s playing confident hockey, and trusting that cannon of a shot he has. Birks, on the other hand, has been one of the steadiest defensemen the Rush have had all season long. He’s poised with the puck, makes smart decisions in all three zones, and is relentless defensively. Congratulations to both players.
- On Friday night, I had Wyatt Simmons in the booth with me as part of a birthday gift to him, and it was a real treat. He was a fantastic broadcast partner when I brough him on in the second intermission report to make his broadcast debut by recapping scores from around the league. Wyatt is 12, and has many great things coming his way in life. His favorite Rush player is Tyler Parks, because just like the 6’7” net-minder, Wyatt is a right-handed catching goaltender. And yes, he’s very much aware of how rare a right-catch goalie is. He’s a great kid, and I’d love to have him up there again.
- On Sunday, we celebrated our team Christmas party at Hay Camp Brewery. Valerie Persinger and Alex Cox did a phenomenal job in putting the whole event together. After all the games were played and prizes raffled off, we had an impromptu “Rookie Idol”, where the rookies had the chance to get up on stage and share their musical abilities…or lack thereof…before you know it, it escalated into a karaoke free-for-all. Coach Tetrault stole the whole show with his rousing rendition of “Boot Scootin Boogie”. It was the hardest we have all laughed in a long time. Job well done by Val and Alex, and to everyone that got up and showcased their pipes. It was arguably a top-three favorite moment of this year so far.
- As we approach the New Year, everyone is busy putting together their resolutions, whether they be dropping a bad habit, being healthier, more optimistic…the list goes on. If I could name a resolution for this team, it would be what Team President Todd Mackin said in an intermission interview during Saturday’s broadcast. He said “One of the things we need to do heading into 2020 is be able to turn the page. We’re a young team, and sometimes, losses carry with us…we need to have blinders on and turn the page, and get ready for the next play. Our 2020 goal needs to be to grow up”. He couldn’t be more correct. This young team has a great deal of potential ahead of it. Todd also used the comparison of “At this point in a season, these freshmen are now sophomores”, meaning that there has been much learned and experienced for these rookies at this juncture of the season. I’m excited to see to true fruits of that growing labor and maturation process as we head into the second half of this season and gear up for what we hope is a successful run to, and through, the playoffs.
BONUS) With tonight being New Year’s Eve, at the stroke of midnight, “Auld Lang Syne” will most likely be the first song we hear. I always think back to Billy Crystal’s immortal character Harry Burns from “When Harry Met Sally”, who, following a romantic moment with Meg Ryan’s character, famously asked, “What does this song mean? My whole life, I don't know what this song means. I mean, 'Should old acquaintance be forgot'? Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot them?” I always remember that on New Year’s Eve. It’s too funny not to!
Enjoy the festivities of tonight folks. Please be safe and responsible. Have a Happy New Year, and we’ll see you at the rink in 2020!